Tressa Azarel Smallwood is the Author, Producer, Publisher, and Motivational Speaker whose star has been on the rise as one of the Black women influencers in Hollywood.
With 5 novels written, the idea to start her own publishing company seemed like a natural choice where she has now published over 160 novels through her Life Changing Books.
Now, as a successful “Hollywood“ writer and producer, Tressa has several series or films streaming on BET, and Allblk TV, with projects in the works that are sure to push her career accomplishments to even loftier recognition as a producer to watch in 2021.
I caught up with Tressa recently to discuss her career and new works, and how even some of you budding writers can connect with her publishing company, or get your screenplay seen.
Q&A with Tressa Azarel Smallwood
RW) Tressa, thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to share with the readers a little about your career. You are an Executive, Writer, Producer and Speaker. Which of those titles came first for you professionally and was it just a natural progression that the rest naturally came as a result of the other?
TAS) Professionally my writing career kicked off before the others. I started out writing books and then eventually learned to write screenplays. And, yes you are correct, becoming a screenwriter and producer are natural progressions for me since deciding in 2015 that I’d one day convert my 162 book publishing catalog into a massive film catalogue.
RW) Were you an avid reader as a kid coming up? Who were some of the authors you feel influenced you the most to write?
TAS) I didn’t grow up like an average teenager. I hung out with my dad at the police station (He was a Captain back then) as opposed to hanging out with friends. However, when I spent time reading a lot of the books that I read coming up were more informational, such as books about money ....how to make it.... how to save it. That’s why I became a boss at such a young age.
RW) Your first novel was “A Life To Remember” back in 2003. Where did you draw inspiration to write that novel, and was that like an instant name recognition break out book for you, or more of a learning experience to write your next book….or both?
TAS) The inspiration to write “ A Life to Remember “ came from a family member who worked at the Caledonia Prison. She gave me a lot of real life instances that sounded outrageous to me at the time I turned those moments into fiction and created “A Life To Remember” . Even though I sold 5,000 copies in the first two months , some hard lessons came with that success. I spent a crazy amount of money on touring and branding which eventually helped with name recognition years down the road.
RW) To date, how many novels have you written? And, are you working on a new writing project now?
TAS) I have written 5 novels , “ A Life to Remember,” “ Bruised part 1 and 2,” ‘VIP” and “Carbon Copy,“ which is soon to be a movie. And....drumroll please... I am feverishly working on a new scripted series called “Cole Records,” a spin-off of a movie I produced in 2019 called “ The Available Wife,“ which is currently airing on All Black streaming service.
RW) You eventually became a publisher yourself and started a publishing company of your own?
TAS) Yes, to date I have published over 164 books under my company Life Changing Books. I will forever remain an advocate for self publishers which is why I continue to teach and motivate independent publishers until this day.
RW) Can anyone who has written a manuscript for a novel or book submit to your publishing company and if so, what are the submission requirements and where should they submit?
TAS) I’m currently taking submissions for screenplays in the genres of thrillers, romantic comedies, family dramas, urban movies and Christmas movies. They can submit a query letter on TressaAzarel.com.
RW) I cited at the top of this interview that you wear many professional hats now and the one I find interesting as a Literary Agent myself in the film and Television world is how your novels have become a go to source for producers and broadcast networks, such as BET. Tell us about which was your first story to become a movie or series, and now when you write, is it or has it always been a desire for it to be scripted for big or small screen?
TAS) The first project that was adapted from a novel into a movie was called Secrets of a Housewife. It seems very surreal when I see that movie airing on BET. I can remember like it was yesterday, the filming of that movie in 2015 changed my life forever. To date, I’ve now produced 11 projects , so now when I write I have a clear understanding of whether the movie will be straight to TV/streaming of if we will do a limited theatrical. One thing for sure is, I want all of my movies to be shown on the big screen or at least have a television premiere.
RW) You are now also a sort after guest panelist on these virtual panels as we continue to endure this pandemic age, but also spoke live at events pre-covid. What was your first time speaking before an audience seeking your words of expertise and looking for motivation to achieve their dreams of becoming a professional writer or becoming successful in whatever field they were pursuing? That must be somewhat daunting, maybe, to know that you have become a voice of inspiration and authority, does it ever strike you in that manner?
TAS) My first speaking opportunity as a professional writer was at my Alma Mater- Bowie State University. It was slightly daunting when the realization hit that I was once in their shoes and now have the ability to change lives. Even more now than ever before I’m aware of my purpose and enjoy inspiring others to follow their dreams.
RW) What’s next for you professionally, what goals do you still have in front you that are next step goals, or maybe a whole different departure from what you are known for?
TAS) What’s next for me is securing a major distribution deal and a next step goal for me is to open a studio where we can train our youth in the industry .
I’m currently taking submissions for screenplays in the genres of thrillers, romantic comedies, family dramas, urban movies and Christmas movies. They can submit a query letter on TressaAzarel.com.
RW) How can our readers find you on social media and where are the best sites to purchase your novels. Also, where can we see your stories in series on TV?
TAS) They can find me on Instagram @ceoazarel , and the best site to purchase my novels would be on Amazon. You can watch Secrets on Tubi TV for free click here. https://tubitv.com/movies/468823/secrets?start=true
All In on BET, Holiday Heartbreak on BETplus , The Available Wife on AllBlack, Sinners Wanted on TvOne.
RW) I never like to close out an interview without asking this question: If you were asked to give the commencement speech this year at any of the HBCU’s, what words of encouragement would you leave with those young adults about to embark on finding their destinies professionally and personally?
TAS) I would tell young adults “If you wanna reach your goals and dreams you must be willing to fight through all obstacles and rebuke the word “NO” because the word No is temporary. It’s important to know that things won’t always fall in line like you think they should. Life will come with many challenges , both personally and professionally but you can achieve anything you want if you put in the hard work and stay dedicated despite the setbacks.
RW) When you’re in Harlem what is your fave place (Apollo, food, etc.,)?
TAS) My favorite place to visit is Amy Ruth’s. Ooohhh Chile..The turkey wings. To Die For !
Thank you very much Tressa for this interview. Continued success with your career and I hope that you will allow us to do a follow-up with you in the not too distant future to catch-up on all of the new accomplishments to come from you.
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What others are writing about Tressa
Pam Morris from Atlanta Georgia on March 27, 2021:
Hello Rob, another great read, thank you so much for taking the time to introduce an artist that worth learning where her journey taking her. I enjoyed reading this Hub.
Liz Westwood from UK on March 27, 2021:
This interview reveals a lot of information about Tressa. You have done a good job at publicising her work.